Parents will find this familiar: You walk in to see the dog gnawing on something unfamiliar that now looks like a mass of plastic and wire. After a slight wrestling match with Fido, you pull the blob away, only to discover it’s your child’s new retainer.
At Freeman Orthodontics, we’re familiar with this scenario. It’s easy to lose a retainer if it isn’t handled correctly. Unfortunately, repeated losses can become very costly.
So what do you do if the dog eats your retainer, and how do you keep that from happening in the first place?
We’ve got you covered.
Why Do I Need a Retainer?
The best day for our patients is debonding day when their traditional braces or clear aligners come off for good. They love seeing that beautiful new smile they’ve spent months working to achieve.
That’s not to say the work is done. After treatment, patients must wear a retainer to ensure their teeth stay in position.
A retainer is an appliance of acrylic and wire custom-made for your new smile. It’s essential to wear it because right after your braces are removed, your jaw is still malleable enough for your teeth to move. That could ruin the smile you’ve just spent months creating. The retainer keeps your teeth in place until your jaw sets.
Even after that, it should be worn at night throughout your lifetime to keep your teeth in place.
Caring for Your Retainer
We include your retainer as part of your treatment. Because it’s custom-made, it may take time to replace. That’s why it’s important to take care of your appliance.
The retainer will come in a storage case. When your retainer isn’t in your mouth or being cleaned, it should be in that storage case. The case protects your appliance not just from dust and getting lost but also from your dog, your cat, or your baby sister.
You should wear your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist. Dr. Freeman will provide specific instructions on how long to wear your appliance and when you can reduce the time to just overnight.
In general, you should wear your retainer at least 22 hours a day for the first 3-4 months, then at least 12 hours a day after that.
You should rinse your retainer each time you put it in your mouth. You should clean it at least once a week with baking soda and water, a mild dish soap, or special cleaning tablets. Gently brush your appliance with a soft-bristled brush and rinse thoroughly before reinserting it. Keeping your retainer clean is vital to your oral health.
Remember, the plastic and wire are more delicate than you may think, so be careful when cleaning.
Keeping Your Retainer Safe
We know keeping your retainer in its storage case keeps it safe. But if you have pets or young siblings, keeping it in the case isn’t enough.
It’s also important to keep that case out of reach of kids or pets. Your saliva’s smell attracts dogs and cats, who can chew open the case and get to the retainer. So keep your case in a drawer or up high so they can’t reach it.
Take your case with you if you go out. The last thing you want to do is wrap your retainer in a napkin. It can be overlooked and tossed out easily, and that could be a very costly mistake.
Consider purchasing a travel case if you want to leave the main one at home. There are several options available from various retailers, most of which are relatively inexpensive.
Dealing With a Lost or Damaged Retainer
What happens if you do lose or damage your retainer? You’ll need a replacement as soon as possible. You can see noticeable movement in your teeth within 2-3 weeks otherwise. So the sooner you can get a replacement, the better the chance of keeping that beautiful new smile.
If your retainer is damaged or lost, contact us right away. We will work with you on getting a replacement made and delivered to you as soon as possible.
Still have questions? We serve patients in the San Jose and in The Bay areas, including Los Gatos, Campbell, Santa Teresa, Evergreen, Fremont, Milpitas, and Los Altos. We’re always happy to answer your questions!